Red is Dead

The sometimes controversial and well known Chicago priest and presbyteral leader, Fr. Robert “Red” Mc Laughlin has died.

Rev. Robert McLaughlin, 64, popular priest, Irish tenor

January 26, 2005


Chicago area churches weren’t the only place where the affable Rev. Robert McLaughlin could command attention.

The Roman Catholic priest’s crimson hair, “leprechaun” grin and Irish tenor nearly made him as big of a star as U2’s Bono when he hit the Dublin pubs nearly 40 years ago.

“The crowds were mesmerized by him. We’d all be like, ‘OK, Red, you sung your two songs, now sit down.’ And he’d laugh. He had the great facility to be able to laugh at himself,” said the Rev. Charlie Rubey of Catholic Charities.

“He just had a magnetic personality. People just loved him.”

Rev. McLaughlin, the outspoken and popular former pastor of Holy Name Cathedral, died Monday from a heart attack while playing golf in Naples, Fla.

He was 64.

The West Side native had left for vacation on Sunday and had planned to return to Chicago on Saturday so he could continue his job as pastor of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish in Park Ridge.

Dubbed “little brother” because of his short stature, Rev. McLaughlin was dedicated to spreading the church’s message to the young and old.

And when he was at odds with his colleagues at the Archdiocese of Chicago, he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.

“He was a man of strong opinions and good opinions,” Bishop Timothy Lyne said.

“He was a man of conviction and principal. It takes us all to be the church, and he wanted to make sure all of the voices were heard,” agreed his older brother, Rev. Ed McLaughlin.

Soon after Cardinal Francis George arrived in Chicago in 1997, Rev. Robert McLaughlin was one of many priests who criticized George for his management style and his preference to individual confessions over general absolution – a Roman Catholic tradition which allows parishioners to achieves penance through communal services.

Rev. McLaughlin also disagreed with George’s command to refuse communion to homosexuals.

Still, he didn’t blame George for not extending his assignment after 12 years of service at Holy Name Cathedral in 2001.

“We have disagreed on some things, but he [George] has been gracious. I get the impression that he is not a person who is vindictive. I think he is a person who enjoys the give and take of discussion,” Rev. McLaughlin told the Sun-Times when George reassigned him.

The Chicago Cubs fan attended St. Frances of Rome Catholic School in Cicero before continuing his studies at Quigley Seminary North and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein. He was ordained in 1966.

Rev. McLaughlin went on to receive a master’s degree in speech and communications at Northwestern University in 1971. He later honed his leadership skills after receiving a master’s degree in organizational development at Loyola University in 1987.

While serving as an associate pastor at Holy Name Cathedral between 1966 and 1976, he taught religion and communications to Quigley students. Rev. Robert McLaughlin later served as an associate pastor at Mater Christi Parish in North Riverside and as pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Chicago.

He was appointed rector-president of Niles College of Loyola University in 1984.

The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin appointed Rev. McLaughlin as pastor of Holy Name Cathedral in 1990.

"He was a ‘big little man,’ " Rev. Andrew Greeley said of Rev. McLaughlin, who’d often dress up as a leprechaun in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “He was one of the real priest leaders in the archdiocese. I’m not sure we’re growing that kind anymore. It’ll be tough without him.”

George said Rev. McLaughlin’s death will leave “a great void” in the archdiocese.

“For Father McLaughlin loved the people he served, and the devotion he showed to the parishes he pastored made him a much-loved pastor,” George said.

In addition to his brother, Rev. Ed McLaughlin, other survivors include his brother Jack and 14 nieces and nephews.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Funeral services are set for Father McLaughlin

Published January 27, 2005

PARK RIDGE – Visitation for Rev. Robert E. McLaughlin, who served the Archdiocese of Chicago for nearly 40 years, will be held from 5 to 9 p.m., Thursday, and 3 to 9 p.m., Friday, at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Church, 920 W. Granville Ave., Park Ridge.

Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Saturday, at the church. Father McLaughlin’s many years with the archdiocese included serving as pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel on the Chicago’s South Side, Holy Name Cathedral on North State Street, and, most recently, Mary, Seat of Wisdom.

Father McLaughlin, 64, died, apparently of a heart attack, Monday on the 15th hole of a golf course in Naples, Fla., while vacationing with friends.

His first decade in the priesthood was spent as associate pastor of Holy Name Cathedral. He left Holy Name and pursued various parish and seminary duties, including rector and president of Niles College of Loyola University, the archdiocese’s college-level seminary from 1984 to 1989. He returned to Holy Name as pastor from 1990 to 2002.

Our priest reported in his homily today that Fr. McLaughlin was
between holes on a golf course, riding in the cart. Suddenly, he looked out on the golf course and asked “why is there an angel on the golf course?” Next his friends knew, he fell out of the golf cart, dead.

This was passed to our associate pastor from other diocesan priests who had been in contact with Fr. Maclaughlin’s secretary. Thought it might be of interest to those who knew him.

Eternal rest grant unto him, oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

A Great Priest Remembered
Posted on January 28, 2005

by Fr. Thomas J. Hurley

I was 18 years old when I walked into the college seminary for the first time on Aug. 24, 1985. It was one of those memorable days in life. The weather was “questionable,” my mother was in tears (joy, of course, that her son was considering the priesthood but sad that he was leaving home), and I was feeling a bit nervous about this whole seminary thing! With my parents helping me move my belongings from our Ford station wagon into the seminary dorm, we backed the car up to a doorway to begin the “move in” process. As soon as my dad opened the back end of the car, the heavens opened up and an already “unsettling” transition in my life became even more chaotic. At that point, my father’s irritation level was raised considerably and I wasn’t sure if the raindrops or my mom’s tears were falling faster. Knowing that this was going to be an ordeal, at the orders of my dad I quickly took an armful of items from the car and ran them down a staircase to a cart that anticipated my arrival. Frustrated by the rain and the mess, I threw my items into the waiting cart and without flinching let out an expletive that perhaps was not too becoming of this first-day seminarian. As the last syllable left my mouth, I turned to my left and coming through a doorway with considerable (and what I learned to be usual) speed was the man who would be, for me, my Rector for the next four years. My heart dropped and so did my jaw. Dressed in a black suit and Roman collar, a man of considerably short stature and bright red hair with a face that resembled the likes of Mickey Rooney stood in front of me and extended his hand and a wonderful Irish smile and simply said: Welcome! That man was Fr. Bob McLaughlin.

For the next four years, he welcomed me (and a lot of other guys to the college seminary) and I learned a great deal from him. Though students always have differences with the folks in charge, Fr. McLaughlin was the kind of guy who listened and encouraged dialogue. He respected us as students and he encouraged us “to dream big dreams.” For those of us who had the opportunity of being in the seminary during his years as the Rector, we were able to witness a man of prayer who really loved being a priest. Having been ordained a priest in 1966, he taught with excitement regarding his respect for JFK, his deep admiration for John XXIII and the great gift that the Second Vatican Council offered to this church of ours in the modern world. In the context of such wonderfully creative homilies and rector’s addresses, he shared with us his love for people, his love for parish life, and most especially his love for God. Even when he had to “lay down the law” (it came with the job) with students, he never stopped believing in us.

This past Monday, the Church of Chicago lost one of its finest priests with the sudden death of Fr. McLaughlin. His smile, his wit, his intelligence, his love for singing, and his deep passionate conviction for the church he served so well, will be sorely missed. Known affectionately by many as “Red,” I feel very sad because one of the great heroes of priesthood is gone. Many of you who read this short article never knew the man and I write it as a way of honoring the kind of priestly ministry Fr. McLaughlin represented. A lover of sports, Notre Dame, and the Cubs, Red was one of the great priests who helped put the Chicago presbyterate on the map. Both as a student and during my relatively short time as a priest, I will never forget the lessons Red taught through his wisdom and his witness of faith. At the heart of who he was as a person and a priest is the lesson I learned the very first day I stumbled in those seminary doors: welcome. He always welcomed new dreams, new possibilities, and new ways of both being and expressing our Church experience. (Though I wasn’t around at the time, I know that he was significant in welcoming the dream of a new school and how the school we know today as Frances Xavier Warde expanded to 700 children on two campuses, here at Old St. Pats and Holy Name Cathedral where Red was the pastor.)

Next weekend, the Archdiocese will be taking up the annual collection to support our seminary system. It may seem inappropriate to many for me to write an article and, at the end, ask for money. Today, the appeal is not just for dollars, but for a dream. I met a great priest the first day I entered the seminary and he was the kind of guy who welcomed dreamers, even those whose entrance was nothing less than graceful. I hope, in the spirit of Fr. Bob “Red” McLaughlin, we will continue to encourage great leaders and great dreamers in this church of ours for many, many years to come.

Fr. Hurley is Associate Pastor of Old St. Patrick’s Church.

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